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Ulster schools hungry for more after tasting Cup glory

By Declan Bogue

Some time ago, figures were published about the drop-out rate of children in sport. Conducted by ERSI for the Irish Sports Council, it held that Gaelic football was suffering a chronic rate of drop-outs compared to soccer.

What the raw data did not convey was that respondents who still played soccer in an ultra-casual way, say once a week in a five-a-side indoor setting, were still considered active participants.

Gaelic football has no such outlet for such casual activity. And for many participants, schools' football is the pinnacle of their career.

By the time they get to Under-21 football, something of the innocence of childhood is lost and they are already into the serious business of winning. It does not suit everybody.

Today, two Ulster schools go into action seeking to make it to an All-Ireland final.

St Ciaran's of Ballygawley face St Mary's of Carlow in the Paddy Drummond Cup (Senior B Football) at The Downs in Westmeath (1pm) after their impressive first ever McLarnon Cup win on Friday against Our Lady's, Castleblayney.

Among their number they have Darragh Canavan, son of former Tyrone great Peter, and it would be worth your while to get a decent look at him.

Another team dealing with the feeling of victory for the first time is St Mary's, Magherafelt. They captured their first ever MacRory Cup on St Patrick's Day by defeating favourites, St Colman's of Newry.

Captained by the excellent Declan Cassidy of Bellaghy, they now meet St Peter's of Wexford, that game being hosted at the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda at 2pm.

While The Convent have a significant number of players from Antrim among their squad, they are backboned by those brought up through the ranks of the Derry Academy Programme. The same can be said of the work being put in at under-age levels within Tyrone.

There is a danger that while all this work can improve players, it is beginning to have a wearying effect on clubs. There is some talk at present that there will be a number of 'starred' minor games on the club scene this summer, with club minor games hosted without those on the county panel.

Let's keep a watching brief.

Belfast Telegraph

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